Rep. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Md.), who recently lost his son to suicide, nevertheless found the presence of mind and eloquence to lead the impeachment motion in the House. He will be the principal House manager for the Senate trial. His Sunday conversation with CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union” was both inspiring and heartbreaking:

RASKIN: These events are personal to me, Jake. There was an attack on our country. There was an attack on our people. There are thousands of people who work on Capitol Hill, not just members, but staff members and Capitol Hill police officers, who were pushed and shoved and punched in the face, pummeled and hit over the head with fire extinguishers.
And the president of the United States did nothing to stop it for more than two hours, as members of Congress were calling him and begging him to do something. And he continued to watch it on TV and to enjoy their insurrection tailgate party, where they were celebrating the attack on our democracy. ...
TAPPER: I can’t also imagine having that trauma compounded with this other trauma. You just lost your son, and now you’re in Congress worrying about your daughter and your other daughter’s husband [who were with Raskin in the Capitol on Jan. 6] because of these terrorists who had attacked the Congress.
That trauma on top of trauma just seems so debilitating to me.
RASKIN: Well, I’m not going to lose my son at the end of 2020 and lose my country and my republic in 2021. It’s not going to happen.

Here is a public servant in the midst of the worst tragedy a parent can endure who so loves his country that he returns to the political arena and defies the mob. He denounces the lies and the complicity of his opponents. For him, the Constitution is like a child — precious, unique and more vulnerable than we can bear to admit. As he put it:

This was the most terrible crime ever by a president of the United States against our country. And I want everybody to feel the gravity and the solemnity of those events, at the same time, of course, that all of us are deeply invested in President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris moving the country forward to repair all of the wreckage and the damage of last year, on everything from covid-19 to the economy. But I was thinking on the way over this morning, Jake, about the preamble of the Constitution: “We, the people, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, and promote the general welfare, and preserve to ourselves and our posterity the blessings of liberty, do hereby ordain and establish.”
We have to do all of those things at the same time. We have to establish justice, we have to ensure domestic tranquility at the same time we are promoting the general welfare.

Raskin insists that “the people are up to it. And we have got a new administration coming into town that is ready to lead America back on the road of progress.” If we had 535 Jamie Raskins in Congress, I would have no doubt.

Sadly, Tapper reminded us of the worst of Congress — the antithesis of Raskin. After replaying the remarks from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) during the impeachment debate, Tapper noted: “Zero acknowledgment that McCarthy himself, for two months, pushed that very same big-lie rhetoric.” He continued: “McCarthy, House Minority Whip Steve Scalise and 124 other House Republicans went so far as to sign on to that joke of a lawsuit from the Texas attorney general which lent further credibility to the big lie.”

The Jan. 6 insurrection did not come out of the blue, nor was it the work of only one man. “Millions of Americans infected with the virus of disinformation," Tapper said. “It was a joint effort by far-right hate groups that the president has been playing footsie with for years and radicalized, infected Trump supporters and MAGA media.” Tapper added: “Multiple dead bodies later, no contrition, no apologies, no acknowledgment of what they did until those who spread the big lie worked to correct it putting out a vaccine of facts and truth.”

There you have it: One congressman is a dedicated public servant who puts personal tragedy aside and speaks with a patriot’s devotion, knowing his own obligation to defend and protect the Constitution from enemies foreign and domestic. The other is a cowardly nonentity who fails to take his oath seriously and allows himself to be swept up in the tide of white supremacy and authoritarian contempt for elections. Raskin leads citizens; McCarthy incites and then follows the mob.

The Founders did not expect angels would occupy office. Federalist No. 51 affirms: “If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.” However, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton did believe the new country was capable of self-governance.

Madison writes in defense of a republican form of government in Federalist No. 39: “It is evident that no other form would be reconcilable with the genius of the people of America; with the fundamental principles of the Revolution; or with that honorable determination which animates every votary of freedom, to rest all our political experiments on the capacity of mankind for self-government.” It is the capacity for self-government that is, uniquely in my lifetime, in doubt.

A frightfully large segment of the population now prefers the lies of an authoritarian to the truth of elected representatives. It prefers a retreat to the ideology of the Confederacy rather than pursuit of the Union commitment to freedom. We wound up in this predicament because all the Kevin McCarthys and the radio talk-show hosts and the right-wing columnists and donors thought they had a racket going: Lie to the mob and instill in them fear of and unhinged anger against the other party. With that simple formula they hoped to seize and hold power — as well as get rich. They did not imagine or they did not care that they created a monster that threatens to devour the republic.

One wonders whether the McCarthys, in quiet moments away from the microphones, realize the moral vacuousness of their actions and the extent to which they violated their oaths. Do they even care that they sullied our democracy and stoked racial hatred? The Raskins know that, despite personal tragedy, political losses and the braying of the mob, they have served their country honorably and earned the admiration of their fellow Americans. If the Constitution endures, it will be because the country realized the justness and truth of the Raskins.

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